Make us your home page

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Lawsuit divides mobile home park

Christopher Kosiorek, front, sits Tuesday with, from left, his Medicaid companion Clancy Miller and grandparents Mary and Vincent Bickhart. Kosiorek and the Bickharts lived at the Americana Cove mobile home park in St. Petersburg before the board demanded Kosiorek leave because he has a record.


Christopher Kosiorek, front, sits Tuesday with, from left, his Medicaid companion Clancy Miller and grandparents Mary and Vincent Bickhart. Kosiorek and the Bickharts lived at the Americana Cove mobile home park in St. Petersburg before the board demanded Kosiorek leave because he has a record.

ST. PETERSBURG — Before the in-your-face shouting and the threatened violence and the flier with Christopher Kosiorek's jail mug shot and the eviction notice, Americana Cove was Mary Bickhart's retirement dream.

The dream has turned into a lawsuit pitting Bickhart and her family against the mobile home park's board.

She and her husband bought a waterfront home five years ago in the park in northeast St. Petersburg. They soon bought a second home and invited their daughter and mentally challenged grandson, Kosiorek, to live there. Bickhart, a retired teacher who worked with mentally challenged students for 20 years, wanted to help her grandson with his daily living, something his own mother needed help doing.

In 2008, Kosiorek, then 22, was charged with having sexual intercourse with a 14-year-old girl several times in a home outside Americana Cove. A year later, Kosiorek pled guilty to child abuse, a third-degree felony. In court, both Kosiorek and the girl said the sex was consensual.

Kosiorek was sentenced to five years' probation and a 10 p.m. curfew for six months.

Soon after the criminal case was over, Bickhart, 65, says, the harassment began. There were phone calls, unwanted visits and confrontations in the clubhouse and at board meetings and fliers posted around the park. They called him a "sex offender," a "sexual predator" and a "pedophile." Kosiorek is not on the state's list of sexual offenders and predators. Finally the board voted that Kosiorek must leave, noting that felons are not allowed to live in the park.

Bickhart responded by suing. The problem, says the family's attorney, Charles R. Gallagher, is that the board is selectively enforcing its rules. Several felons live in the park.

In addition, Americana Cove advertises itself as an over-55 park, but several people under that age live there, he said.

The lawsuit is seeking damages for harassment, emotional stress and defamation. "Any retarded person has a right to live in that park or any park," said Bickhart, who is a member of the park's board.

As part of Kosiorek's sentencing, he was evaluated by a psychologist who found that his IQ is 74 and his common sense impaired.

Added Gallagher: "The deeper issue here is giving respect and according rights to handicapped individuals as is allowed within the law."

The lawsuit, which names six individual board members in addition to the board as a whole, has created a divide in the otherwise tight-knit mobile home park at 7201 First St. NE. All of the defendants — James Huff III, Barbara Gallant, Robert L. Johnson, Kerry Dacus, Prudy Piechota and Gerry Zebley — either declined to comment or did not return phone calls.

Jeremy W. Rodgers, an attorney for Americana Cove, declined to comment, saying only: "We're confident that in the end we will prevail."

Bickhart is trying to sell her property. She remains on the board but her voting rights have been taken away. She says she takes a tranquilizer whenever she goes to board meetings.

Her grandson has moved out, but she would like him to be able to return.

"How we ever got into this mess, I don't know," said Kay Jones, 87, who has lived in the park for 30 years and is friendly with both sides. "I'm sure that sooner or later it'll get straightened up and we will be the loving park that we're meant to be."

Researcher Caryn Baird contributed to this story. Luis Perez can be reached at or (727) 892-2271.

Lawsuit divides mobile home park 06/08/10 [Last modified: Tuesday, June 8, 2010 5:53pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. Dirk Koetter says Bucs used team meeting to discuss social issues


    Four days before their preseason home opener against the Cleveland Browns, which had 12 players not stand for the national anthem prior to their last game, the Bucs used their team meeting to discuss social issues that might have led to that demonstration, coach Dirk Koetter said.

    "The main thing is we have to respect everybody's opinion," Dirk Koetter said, "because everybody is not going to agree." [AP photo]
  2. Rookie tight end Antony Auclair making case to stick with Bucs


    Don't let his modest preseason stats fool you: Antony Auclair, the undrafted rookie tight end from Canada is making a strong case to stick around on the Bucs' 53-man roster this season.

    Bucs tight end Antony Auclair (82) collides with a defender following a catch during training camp. [CHARLIE KAIJO   |   Times]
  3. Who is that 'Blacks for Trump' guy standing behind the president at his Phoenix rally


    At a number of political rallies over the last two years, a character calling himself "Michael the Black Man" has appeared in the crowd directly behind Donald Trump, impossible to miss and possibly planted.

    Michael the Black Man, variously known as Michael Symonette, Maurice Woodside and Mikael Israel, holds up a sign as President Donald Trump speaks to a crowd at the Phoenix Convention Center during a rally on Tuesday in Phoenix, Arizona.  [Ralph Freso | Getty Images]
  4. Off-duty Manatee County deputy saves couple from burning car

    Public Safety

    MANATEE COUNTY — Neil and Claudia Cook are lucky to be alive after an off-duty deputy spotted them trapped in their smoking car and rescued them just before it became engulfed in flames on …

    Neil and Claudia Cook were trapped in their smoking car on Sunday when an off-duty deputy kicked out the window, rescuing them just before the car became engulfed in flames. [Courtesy of Manatee County Sheriff's Office]
  5. Hillary Clinton said her 'skin crawled' when Donald Trump stood behind her on debate stage


    In her most detailed public comments about what happened during the second presidential debate, Hillary Clinton said her "skin crawled" as Donald Trump loomed behind her on the stage in St. Louis last October.

    Hillary Clinton speaks as Donald Trump listens during the second presidential debate at Washington University in St. Louis on Oct. 9, 2016. In her upcoming book, Clinton says "It was incredibly uncomfortable. He was literally breathing down my neck. My skin crawled." [Pool photo by Rick T. Wilking via AP]